The news today out of Newtown, CT is horrible on so many levels. It’s hard to know how to even begin to fathom the evil that would rob innocent children of their lives. When my sons got out of school today, my wife and I were there to greet them, hug them, and then most importantly, sit down and talk about what happened.
I know a lot of parents think that shielding their children from atrocities like this are what they should do, but I happen to disagree. Children need to know that evil exists and it can strike anytime, any place, and it can happen to anyone. The better prepared they are, the better chance they have of surviving if (heaven forbid) they ever find themselves in a situation like what happened earlier today. Due to some personal messages I received after posting a status update to this effect, I have decided to elaborate on some ideas as a public service. I hope you find them helpful. These are things my wife and I discuss with our boys. You may want to do the same.
1. First, talk to them. Walk them through the tragedy so they understand. This is a delicate and difficult process. My wife and I were both tearing up as we talked with our sons today. But they should see that. Because they’re not parents, they don’t necessarily understand how much the thought of losing them hurts. Seeing your pain will help impress upon them how serious a matter this is. As you discuss the event, stop often and ask how they’re feeling and if they have questions. Kids need to know that evil exists – it’s not fearmongering or ruining their innocence; it’s better preparing them for the real world. Sadly, these are the times we live in. I’d rather have my children lose their innocence than lose their lives.
2. Teach them that their awareness is their single best defense. In today’s busy world, our kids often have their heads down or on other things aside from what’s happening around them. Because they may not yet be big enough to physically defend themselves, awareness is their best weapon. Practice exercises with them like asking them to recall what sort of car just drove by. What was the license plate of that car? What color sweater was that woman wearing on the train? Have them do the same to you. Make it a game, but at the same time make sure they understand how vital it is to be aware. Not sometimes. Not once in a while. But all the time.
3. Get them familiar with the sound of gunfire. Now before you all rush to your emails and send me nasty messages, hear me out. We live around the way from a gun club. The sound of gunfire is around us fairly constantly – especially on weekends. Each time we hear guns going off, we make sure the boys recognize it. We’ve driven them past the range so they can hear how loud it is up close and what it would sound like to be near a gun. What this does is prompt their subconscious to recognize gunfire and alert them if those sounds happen in a place where there shouldn’t be gunfire, i.e, a school or shopping plaza. Even an extra second or two is an advantage in a crisis situation.
4. Answer their questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out and get back to them, and then do it! We stressed that they should listen to their teachers today, but if they find themselves alone and unable to get back to the safety of their classroom or they are unable to flee to safety, that they should pretend it’s a game of hide-and-seek and they should try to find the best possible place to hide and then stay there until the police come.
5. Establish communication procedures. How will you get in contact with them and vice versa? Make sure they know that you will come for them and be able to communicate. My sons learned my cellphone number before they could say their address properly. Nowadays, they have multiple ways to get in touch with both my wife and me.
6. Make sure you prepare as a family. If you’re in a restaurant or movie theater, do you and your spouse have a plan for responding to a threat? My wife and I know exactly what our roles are in such an event. Evacuation of the kids and dealing with the threat are both parts of our plan. That may not be possible for you depending on whether you have training or not, but a clear evac route is necessary. Teach your kids to make a note of the exits whenever they enter a new place, restaurant, theater, etc.
These are just a few of the ways you can better prepare your children and your family for the possibility of a hostile event. I wish such things didn’t have to be discussed, but unfortunately, in today’s world they need to be.
I hope you’ll all join me in sending out thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and positivity to those affected by this horrible tragedy. And please share this post if you think it will do some good.
Be well everyone.